Morning Cure

Morning Cure

6:00 AM

The sweet unmistakable smell of freshly cut drying hay greeted me this morning when I woke up….. it reminded me of a Grant Wood painting. DM


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Small stand of  rye


Took this picture Saturday morning, just as the fog was starting to burn off.   I planted some rye late last fall for a cover crop in the garden, decided to let it grow to maturity this spring.  There is something visually about a field of rye (or wheat)  that I find grounding.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.  DM






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They Are Here

View of my latest adventure…. Honeybees


I have to tell you about a recent conversation with my son-in-law Matt  about honeybees.  When he was younger, someone offered his dad, several bee hives full of bees…They hauled them home in the back of his dad’s pick up.   Before they unloaded the hives, they put on coveralls, gloves, etc, and duck taped their pant legs and sleeves  shut, hoping not to get stung.  Well, the bees were so ticked off, after their bumpy ride in the back of the pick up, Matt said he still got the crap stung out of him…

That story was in the back of my mind last Monday.  Mike (a local bee keeper who offered to sell me a nuc of bees this Spring), texted me and said to be at his place Monday night about dark…by then the bees would be back in their hive.  Well, rather than head home with 4 or 5 frames of bees (which is a small colony of bees splitting off from the main colony)  Mike said it would be easier to just take a whole hive home, and in a few weeks he would stop over and do the split….

hummmmmmmmm…..I wasn’t 100% sure of that idea..(with Matt’s story fresh in my mind)

There would be 20 frames of bees in (2) large brood chambers..depending on how much honey was in them, each box could weigh as much as 70 pounds a piece..

When I got home, there would be nobody to help me unload.

The thought of unloading ten’s of thousands of angry bees,  the only thing between me and them was 3/4 of wood, in the dark, sounded like a recipe for trouble…

I made up my mind, if it seemed too risky, I would just have to pass on the whole thing, and go with plan b…buy 3 pounds of bees and a new queen,  off the guy who taught the recent honey bee class I took.

In the back of my mind, I kept thinking..what in the world am I getting myself into???  I would have no one to blame but myself, if something went South.

I backed up to Mike’s first hive…He had a strap around both boxes, and a reducer in the entrance to the hive, with duck tape over the entry  that part of process went without a hitch.

Took my time driving home.

Backed into our apple orchard up to the 6 by 6 frame I had ready. There was still enough light to see when I got home. That was encouraging.  The hive ended up weighing  between 60 and 70 pounds tops, so that was do-able.

I pried, the entry reducer opening and just a couple of bees came out.

Talk about relieved.

This stuff is all new to me…yes, I’ve been reading, attending bee keeping classes, etc…it’s one thing to watch it on YouTube, it’s another thing to do it solo.

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Wild Child

My apologies to those of you that have already read this.  I thought this morning, it really belongs on the farm blog, so there you go. 😉


Yesterday I made my third batch of “Wild Child.”

What in the heck is “Wild Child”?

When I am in the lab kitchen and make something new, if it turns out, it gets named, in this case,  I named my latest creation “Wild Child” the moment I tasted it.

The multiple flavors and textures  exploded in my mouth, it was visually beautiful to behold and it was good for me.  With all of that going for it, it had to have a name that popped.

I continue to work my way, slowly  into the world of fermentation. As per Sando Katz’s suggestion to experiment with texture as well as with various fruit and vegetable combinations, I upped the ante and tripled the amount of peanuts  sweet peppers, and apples yesterday.

Wild Child is 1000% more tasty than its cousin sauerkraut.

This  lacto-fermenting colorful mixture will soon be “brimming with healthy probiotics.”

Wild child 1

Raw ingredients of Wild Child

Don’t have the time to unpack  the health benefits attributed to eating fresh unpasteurized foods this morning vs the pasteurized crap   foods , but they are in two different leagues.  Here’s a link if you’re curious. That article talks about Sauerkraut, but it applies to all fermented foods.

I’ve chosen to use air locks when I’m making small batches of fermented  foods.  You don’t have to, as long as you keep whatever you are fermenting weighed down below the brine.  I just think those little gizmo’s look neat, plus when the fermentation process starts to kick in,  (after a day or two) I like watching it bubble.

Yea, I know, I’m easily entertained. 😉


wild child ready to ferment

Ingredients ready to rock

in air locked jars


Wild Child

(1 ) larger head of cabbage…I like to use the red cabbage to give it more color/ but green works just as well.

bell or sweet peppers (usually end up with @ least 2 or 3 larger bell peppers in the mix)

(1) small can of nuts  (I used salted Spanish peanuts this time)

(3 or 4 ) large apples

(1) cup of raisins

(3) Pears

Carrots, (as many as you want..last batch I think I had 2 cups of cut up carrots

celery  (3 or 4 stalks)

(1) T pickling salt or slightly less.

Directions:  cut everything up in small pieces, then sprinkle the pickling salt over it.  Knead for 3 to 5 minutes until everything gets limp and juicy…If you’ve never “kneaded” raw vegetables before with a dash of pickling salt, you’re in for a surprise.

At this point, I packed the above ingredients into a 2 qt jar.  Keep packing it in until you absolutely can’t get any more in, and everything is submerged in liquid…I will add just a little water if needed.  put the cap with the air lock on  (or put it in crock that you can cover lightly..

  Do not just put it in a jar with a lid, or it will explode.

That quantity of fruits, vegetables and nuts yielded about 3 quarts. I filled my jars and ate the rest  fresh.


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Ten things to keep in mind when starting a small orchard in Iowa

I met with a young man this afternoon who wants to plant 100 apple trees on his acreage.  I invited him to our property  this afternoon to go over some basics.

I knew I could pass onto him in 30 minutes what has taken me years of trial and error to learn. These tips are not necessarily in order of priority AND not necessarily what another orchardist would tell you..these are just things that I  would suggest. 😉 DM

The following are my notes:

#1 priority keeping the deer away from the trees…(for at least the first ten  years).     In hind-site, I would have installed an 8 ft metal deer fence around the whole area, even before planting the trees.  You are welcome to put individual fences around each tree, and if you had 20 or less, that may be the route to go.  In my case, I had 75 trees to protect.  The first year we planted 50 trees, and in 2 nights, the deer came in and completely stripped  all of the new growth on 80% of our trees.  It was sickening.

#2  You will need to plan for regular watering the first 3 to 5 years until trees are  established (consider drip irrigation if practical)  (we did and it was…drip irrigation).  Farmtek is a good place to purchase that system

#3 Need to decide what size tree you want to end up with (dwarf, semi dwarf, full size)  This will determine which root-stock you  order.  I chose semi dwarf because the trees do not have to be staked long-term. Rootstock we went with was called EMLA7

#4 You will need to decide which varieties  of apple trees you plant. (Also called Cultivars.) I would suggest a mixture, various maturity dates, as well as for eating, cooking, dual purpose… and disease resistance.  That way you are not picking 100 trees at the same time, rather spread out over a 3 month period.

#5  While there are dozens of potential diseases and insects to protect against,  Scab and Apple Cedar Rust are the most common  diseases I’ve run into.   Apple Coddling moth, and Japanese beetles are the  two insects I fight the most.  I wish I would have ordered more varieties that have a built-in resistance to scab (there are a handful that are genetically resistant)

#6  Pruning…The first 3 to 5 years  are the most important in terms of pruning…because you are laying the foundation for the shape of the tree.  I used the “Central Leader” model of pruning.. there are others out there. This is the one I’m most familiar with.

#7 The biggest enemy to my trees   were #1 the deer, followed closely by rabbits….which love the soft tasty bark of young trees.

#8  Do a soil test before planting trees to determine the proper PH . Your local county extension office is a great resource to talk to.

#9   Mulching around trees (especially the first 5 years) is important…so your tree does not  have to compete with grass…  I would lay down a weed barrier and use washed  river rock for mulch…vs. wood chips which attract mice/ voles, which also love the sweet tasty bark of your young trees.

#10  You may need to get your private applicator spraying license  if you don’t already have it,  to have access to certain restricted chemicals.    I order all of my chemicals from Crop Production Services out of Galesville WI.   Phone: 608-539-2090. They have been great if I have questions as far as which chemical to spray, etc.   I have chosen not to spray any more than absolutely necessarily.  Yes, I do end up some spots, but they are not drenched  in toxic chemicals.  You will have to make that call.

Here are some random pictures:


2010-liberty2 gingergold-2010crop-001 2010-honeycrisp-007

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Thoughts while pruning


buds on

the apple tree

 starting to swell. The

honk of geese,  the raucous





Aslan is  afoot.


Notes on this poem.  I was out early this week pruning.  I have between 90 and  100 semi dwarf apple trees  each season that require my attention.  The second morning I was out, I was struck by how quickly the dormant  buds were starting to  swell.  I would never have  noticed that sort of thing when I was younger.  I wasn’t out there 5 minutes, before I heard the sound of  geese.  There were 4 of them.  I tried to get my camera out  to record them as they passed overhead, but they were moving too fast.   This poem is an attempt to capture some of the joy and energy I encounter out in the orchard.

                                                                            DM   Orchardist /Poet


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Two years ago, my aunt Rosie gave me a cardboard  box of 35 mm slides she’d inherited from her aunt Annie from Germany. there were probably two to three hundred slides.    Most of the slides were taken before I was  born.  I am in that season of life where I am trying to  downsize,  so wasn’t  sure I even wanted that box.

We didn’t own a slide projector, and  my neck quickly got stiff holding those old slide up to the kitchen light.

I soon realized I had a small gold mine of family photos….

Here is the very first slide I looked at:


That’s me on the left. Aunt Annie and my brother Steve on the right…The year…about 1961. This would have been taken at my grandparents farm.



My grandpa unloading hay


Grandpa’s farm dogs Butch and Feedie waiting  in the truck to go to town.


And on a related note….

Last night, a book of poems on our book shelf caught my eye. I wasn’t quite ready to hit the sack, and was definitely not in the mood to watch a movie, so thumbing through a book of poetry sounded more in keeping with my mood.  The poet’s name was Leonard L. Tews.   He’d stayed in our B and B several years ago, and sent us his book of poetry  after his time with us.

His poem Threshing Picture put me in mind of this photo of my grandfather  from the box:


Grandpa is 2nd from the left


Threshing Picture

There they stand

like stones of stonehedge

with musty

nineteenth century notions.

They smell of dusty sweat

and horses:

they itch of thistles

and rustic ambitions.


I can tell by shadows

under the horses

that they have stopped

for dinner just

at noon.

The hot threshing machine –

its noise of wheels and belts

is quiet


There stands my father’s father,

with my build,

sturdy in work pants

and cavalry suspenders

long-sleeved shirt

and underwear buttoned

to the neck,

in mid-western summers….


I’ll stop here.  Mostly wanted to share these snapshots with those  of you that subscribe to this blog.

Life is moving at a quieter pace currently and I’m OK with that.




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